Dallas singer and songwriter Seth Falkner. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Dallas singer and songwriter Seth Falkner. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

There was once a time when porches were the Facebook of their day, a place where people gathered to say hi, share gossip and socialize. Dallas’ oldest neighborhood is revitalizing this antiquated concept with a modern twist.

Part block party and part home tour, Porchfest is a grassroots event that celebrates local music, food and art, taking place in the Peak’s Addition neighborhood this month.

Porchfest organizer Elizabeth Nelson. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Porchfest organizer Elizabeth Nelson. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Elizabeth Nelson, neighborhood resident and event organizer, says the festival was inspired by a similar community gathering in Ithaca, N.Y. It has since moved west.

“We just kind of stumbled onto the concept. It seemed like a different and unique and fun … way to kind of showcase our neighborhood.”

The idea is pretty simple: Close off three blocks in the neighborhood and invite artists, bands and restaurants to set up shop on front lawns and porches. Guests can roam from house to house, meeting their neighbors and sharing in the festivities.

“That’s what really makes our neighborhood feel like a neighborhood, the front porches,” Nelson says. “It really makes it feel like a small town.”

The Oct. 15 festival will present a different local musician each hour at different houses around the neighborhood. The festival features artists Mo Robson, Houston Marchman, The Free Loaders, Kathy Mason, Seth Faulkner and Kidd Sisters.

Nelson hopes the party also becomes a chance to appreciate the beauty of Peak’s Addition. The area features four different architectural styles, from the large country estates built in the late 1800s, to the Victorian homes of the early 20th century. Prairie and craftsman homes became popular in the 1920s and streetcar apartments came to prominence shortly thereafter.

“It gives an absolute different vibe,” resident Kristen Martin says.

Much of the land that Peak’s Addition sits on was part of a settlement founded by Mexican War veteran Jefferson Peak. He purchased more than 200 acres of land, which still carries his name.

Peak, according to Martin, is considered one of the fathers of East Dallas — the way he divided his expansion acreage defined the neighborhood.

“Peak gave sections of their lands for the railroads to come in. They knew it would bring people and work, and they were right, it boomed,” Martin says.

Nelson hopes for her own type of boom, one that will bring people together in the relaxed setting of their own front porches to share in art, food and conversation.

“There’s a big movement back to porch communities. People are moving back to that and realizing how nice it is to have that social option,” she says. “It’s not like the suburbs where you come home, park your car in the garage and shut the door.”

What: Porchfest
Where: The Peak’s Addition neighborhood
When: Oct. 15 from noon-8 p.m.
Cost: Free

John Jay Myers, The Free Loaders singer and drummer, is one of the acts that will be performing at the first annual PorchFest in East Dallas off Swiss Avenue homes. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

John Jay Myers, The Free Loaders singer and drummer, is one of the acts that will be performing at the first annual PorchFest in East Dallas. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

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